Chael Sonnen is the UFC's omnipresence. He is a coach on the current edition of TUF: Brazil. He's an analyst for FOX Sports breaking down the latest Octagon happenings. He's on Twitter antagonizing both Wanderlei Silva and Rich Franklin. He is certainly the only fighter that rivals UFC president Dana White for airtime.
Sonnen is everywhere, and his many platforms have put his charisma and passion for the sport on full display, in the process winning over many past critics. Even Brazil is apparently rooting for him now. According to a recent poll, 70 percent of Brazilians said they would back their former public enemy No. 1 against their countryman Silva when the two fight at UFC 175 this summer.
This from the nation that rabidly backed Anderson Silva when the former champion threatened to break every one of Sonnen's teeth, along with his arms and legs. And now, he's their guy? It's not exactly something he envisioned or desired, which is why as the tension escalated in the TUF gym, he tried to calm Wanderlei Silva down. Imagine that, the provocateur playing peacemaker.
In a moment that essentially broke TV's fourth wall, Sonnen tried to explain to Silva their roles in the developing drama, and how his aggression was threatening that.
"Not only do I not need to be applauded, I like to be booed," Sonnen said. "I may be the only guy in sports that the louder they boo, the bigger the smile I'm going to have on my face. So you be the good guy, and I remain the heel. And I just couldn't get him to understand. And I kept trying to explain that, Wanderlei, when you have a mob mentality which is what he has, the more people he has standing behind him and the less I have with me, the bigger his courage grows. If you approach me 6-on-1, this is going to endear me to the audience because I look like a victim. And I don't want that. You go ahead and deal with the applause, and I'll go ahead and walk through the crowd that's throwing their beer and nachos on me. I like that. But he was too stupid to grasp the concept."
The ensuing brawl led to a role reversal from which there may be no coming back. Sonnen, the beloved.
It didn't help that one of Silva's coaches, Andre Dida, escalated the action, punching the grounded Sonnen from behind multiple times while he was already engaged with Silva.
Sonnen termed the transgression "absolutely an assault," noting that even he and Silva adhered to unwritten rules when they were fighting.
"I'm on top of Wanderlei Silva without a mouthpiece, I could've bit him, but I didn't. He's got no gloves on. He could have eye gouged me, but he didn't," he said. "There's rules, even in a street fight with me and Wanderlei who hate each other. There was a weight stack right next to where we were fighting, and what his coach did was one step away from picking up a weight and just crushing my head with it. There's no way around the fact that what he did was illegal."
With that, Silva, a revered PRIDE legend, may be destined for boos on July 5.
With about 10 weeks to go until then, Sonnen is still wading his way through a post-TRT world. Once the sport's most well-known testosterone replacement therapy patient, he is still in the process of adapting his body to life without it.
Shortly after Nevada's ban went into effect and sent ripples throughout the rest of the world's regulatory bodies, Sonnen's doctor devised a program that would remove him from the therapy and have him in compliance with licensing requirements in 60 days. Right now, he said he is less than three weeks away from that point.
"I do feel a little bit different but I feel very encouraged with the new path we're taking, he said. "I'm feeling more positive than panicked. At first, I felt panic. My panic is going away, and I'm seeing some optimism, but I'm not through it yet."
Asked about the alterations to his health treatment, Sonnen declined to elaborate on his current course, saying it was too early to proclaim it effective.
"To be candid with you, if I find something and it works and I go, 'Oh, my goodness, I can't believe this works,' I don't think I would share it," he said. "I think it would be a competitive edge and competitive secret as much as anything else. As long as it's within the rules, that's what I'd try to do."
But no matter what, he says, even if his new treatment doesn't near the same effectiveness as his old one, even if he has to "hop or hobble," he'll make the walk to the cage to fight Silva on July 5.
So what then of this sudden interest in Rich Franklin?
Three times over the last two weeks, Sonnen has referenced the former UFC middleweight champion in tweets, challenging him to fight in what could be Franklin's swan song.
So far, Franklin hasn't addressed the callouts, but don't expect Sonnen to be dissuaded by the silence. The "Bad Guy" business is a good business because he's everywhere, always plotting, and yes, always talking.
"Look, everything I know about Rich and I've only met him one time, he was a complete gentleman. I've never seen Rich be nothing but nice to people whether it was fans or just a random guy," he said. "But here's the bottom line: Rich Franklin has one fight left. I would've been world champion. Way back when Rich held that belt, I would've whipped his ass back then. I would've been the world champion but I couldn't get my opportunity, and I'm still mad about it. I would've been the PRIDE champion but I couldn't get into PRIDE. I could've beaten all of those guys for years. I could've held the belt in either organization for years, and I couldn't even get my shot. So, if Rich only has one fight left, if there's anybody that disputes what I just said, including him; if there's anybody that questions that Chael Sonnen was the greatest 185-pounder to ever live, then please, Mr. Franklin, give me that one last fight that you have under your contract."